You'd thnk the ebook revolution would have killed off the vanity press hucksters…but it hasn't yet. But until that day comes, Writer Beware has created for writers a handy list of lies that scammers tell to trick the unwary, the desperate and the gullible into thinking that you're deading with a real publisher.
If the publisher you are considering getting into business with is telling one of these whoppers, you know you're in trouble. Here are a couple of examples:
We aren't a vanity publisher because we also offer non-fee contracts. Okay. But you only have their word for that, right? And even if it's true, YOU are getting a fee-based contract. Think about that double standard–what does it say about the way the publisher views you and your work?
We aren't a vanity publisher because your fee covers only part of the cost–we provide the rest. Again, you only have their word for that. It's highly likely that this claim is being made not because it's true, but to make you feel better about surrendering large sums of money. In most cases, where publishing fees are due, they cover not just the full cost of production and publication, but the publisher's overhead and profit as well.
We aren't a vanity publisher because we refund your money if you sell a certain number of books. Once again, this is a sales ploy, designed to make you feel better about paying a fee. It's likely that the sales threshold is set so high that authors will rarely, if ever, achieve it–especially given the very limited distribution and marketing that most fee-based publishers provide (since the bulk of most fee-based publishers' income comes from authors' fees, they have little incentive to cut into their profit with effective marketing and distribution–although some will provide more if you pay extra).
Another thing to wonder about: if by some amazing chance you do manage to reach the sales threshold, will your publisher make good on its refund pledge? Some fee-based publishers will. Others are just plain lying.